91st Academy Awards: Streaming apps crash the Oscars party

February, 20 2019

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Iva Lila
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Iva Lila

Amazon, Netflix and Hulu are not just rivals on the app charts. This Sunday, the competition shifts to the red carpet at Hollywood’s most high-profile and glamorous event; the Oscars.

In 2017, in what was a historic achievement for the streaming industry, Amazon Studios won its first ever Academy Awards, picking up three gold statues for Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman. Netflix followed suit the following year, scooping its first Academy Award for the documentary Icarus. For Hulu, the upcoming ceremony on February 24 will be the company’s first time breaking into the Oscars race with two nominations for its documentaries, Minding the Gap and Crime + Punishment.

Although Netflix and Amazon have both taken home Oscar trophies in the past, the streaming giants are still facing obstacles in gaining meaningful entry into Hollywood’s most prestigious club.

Certainly the video streaming business model has bewitched consumers worldwide and transformed the way in which we consume media, however the gentry of the film industry overwhelmingly view such platforms with downright disdain. After all, these are the companies responsible for dismantling the very palaces that started the business; the movie theatres. Among the cinematic luminaries who have spoken out against streaming services are film director Steven Spielberg and Cannes director Thierry Fremaux.

Despite being distribution platforms first and a content creators second, the ubiquitous Netflix and Amazon have successfully positioned themselves as some of the most exciting studios of our time with their continuing efforts to produce original TV shows and movies. Amazon is estimated to have spent $5 billion on video content in 2018 while in the same year, Netflix spent an estimated $8 billion.

Amazon’s foreign-language film, Cold War has received three nominations for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film. In all three categories, it will face Netflix’s masterpiece, Roma.

This year marks the first time Netflix has some skin in the game for winning a major category. Roma, has received ten nominations, including for the coveted Best Picture honour.

To meet eligibility guidelines, Netflix made an unusual move of giving Roma and its other nominated title, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, exclusive theatrical runs for one week (which is the bare minimum required) before they were available to stream. It was an unprecedented move for the company and confirms the importance that Netflix places on awards to validate its value to consumers.

With its legacy, history and utter prestige,  an Oscar - or even a nomination - carries a lot of weight. Not only does it garner films more audience interest, but more importantly it guarantees a place in the history books.

Only a few years ago, the notion that nascent companies with relatively little movie-making experience such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu would be in the running for a major Oscar trophy among big-studio peers such as Fox, Universal and Paramount seemed far fetched. The presence of all three leading video streaming services at the Academy Awards marks a turning point in the film industry, and perhaps the end of the Oscars as we know it.

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